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The business of health care


My heart goes out to all of the counselors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, doctors and various health care professionals who never once received an important memo during their stay in academia: Make sure to take a business course.

I've earned education credits of a master, yet, when it came to running my own healthcare business, I earned my degree from the university of hard knocks based on the curriculum of trial, error, pain and heartache - sprinkled with disappointment due to a lack of return on investment. I left college chasing the American dream, only to be quickly faced with the harsh reality that my education did not encompass the necessary keys to unlock successful business ownership in healthcare.

I used to wonder why I didn't get the memo. I'm not the first person excluded from this very selective list, which begs the question: Why isn't business viewed as an integral part of a healthcare related degree? This unanswered question goes hand-in-hand with an unspoken stigma underlying the world of healthcare: Attempting to balance a personal life, while taking pride in and expressing joy from a profitable and prosperous private health care practice is often a lonely and unsupported role. There's a code of silence kept by health care providers needing to build a business: simultaneously celebrating an entrepreneurial spirit while building a successful private practice is sometimes considered taboo.

As a woman and business owner, I've met with my share of glass ceilings in health care. While constantly watering my natural seed to success and watching it regenerate harvest, I've gained knowledge and prevented my pursuit of happiness in private practice to perish. A few lessons learned along the way include the following.

Take Risks: I began first by taking risks. I never knew what was on the other side of my comfort zone until I took a leap of faith to find out. Traveling outside of my comfort zone has produced a wider circumference and even greater vision to move ahead.

Get a Support Team: I grounded myself in a viable support team and came to the conclusion that asking for help is okay. I have been blessed with amazing mentors alongside a fantastic business coach, both of whom taught me two very important lessons: 1) It is impossible to know everything and 2) If I ask, people are willing to offer their assistance and support.

Eliminate "Head Trash": Clean house by getting rid of negative self-talk. In the beginning my thoughts clouded my sight, ultimately limiting my own potential. Many of us are guilty of letting life's situations dominate our thinking, consequently preventing us from taking action, because we are incapable of seeing things for what they really are. That which is our internal state is a direct reflection of our external state. By challenging our life paradigm, we can actually live a life without limits.

Be grateful: Know everything happens for a reason, so be grateful during both good and bad times. Finding gratitude inside crisis heightens this dexterity, and allows me to accomplish two very important things. 1) Relaxing in "crisis" circumstances; and 2) Showing up with a profound sense of purpose.

Own Your Own Happiness: Happiness is a state of mind, so I choose to own my own happiness. As human beings we all have one entitlement: to be HAPPY. Taking a personal inventory of my own limited perceptions is extremely helpful during this process. For me this also includes setting boundaries with those who can't see nor share a passion for my vision.

Celebrate Often: Enjoy the festivities of life by celebrating often. I remember thinking people thought I was crazy due to my radical and frequent celebrations for items such as the day, the weather, personal milestones or anything that mustered up happiness within the moment. Celebration has added so many positive elements to my life; to me celebration is the fuel that recharges and revives my inspiration. Inspiration in me is surfaced from both small and large steps pointing to the direction of success. "The more you praise and celebrate life, the more there is in life to celebrate!" (Oprah Winfrey).

Whether you implement any of the tools above or have inserted bullet points from your own personal memo - never give up. If you fall, shake the dust off and decide to fall forward. Know that tomorrow brings opportunity to unfold a story yet to be told. Remember the authority embedded in your words and the words received from others.

Your destiny is shaped from your own perception. You have the choice to be empowered or to remain powerless.

You may not have received the business memo in college, but that's okay. It is our right, as business owners and as caring, health care professionals, to make a handsome living, to prosper, to charge appropriately for our products and services and to even get rich, if that's the path we opt for. It's never too late to learn, to obtain the necessary knowledge and information to succeed, and to transform business dreams into reality.

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Teri Karjala

Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at www.talkingwithteri.com.

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